Yesterday Linfield tv and Linfield official media featured Day one of Waterworth Week - the day when Linfield won the league in dramatic circumstances in North Belfast 3 years ago.
Leading local sports journalist Alex Mills was at Solitude on that glorious day in April 2017 and here below are the reports he penned for the following day’s Sunday Life with three of the main protagonists - hat trick hero Andrew Waterworth, manager David Healy and captain Jamie Mulgrew.
Goal hero Andy Waterworth admits he would have deemed himself a failure had he not won at major trophy with Linfield!
The big 30 year old, who joined the Blues from cross town rivals Glentoran in 2013, was simply unplayable in a dramatic second half at Solitude, his dramatic hat-trick helping bring the Gibson Cup back to Windsor Park for the first time in five years.
As his name echoed around Windsor Park last night when the team brought to trophy back to for a massive celebration, Waterworth stressed being a title winner was the ‘best feeling in the world’.
“To be honest, we were awful in the first half,” admitted Waterworth.
“I don’t know whether it was nerves or not, but we just didn’t perform. In saying that, there was a swirling wind that made things difficult for us.
“Thankfully, we got off to a great start after the turnaround. Once we scored, I thought there was always going to be one winner.
“All of a sudden the confidence came flooding back. We started to look like at team that handn’t been beaten for 17 games.”
Waterworth’s second was a strike to grace any occasion, taking off on a blistering 30 yard dash before shooting low into the bottom corner.
“I only had one thing on my mind and that was to finish it,” he added. “It just opened up for me, so I just kept going.”
And, when the Blues were a awarded a penalty kick, Waterworth was first to react.
He added: “Aaron Burns is on the penalties at the minute, but fair play to him, he asked me did I want it for my hat-trick.
“I actually missed a penalty against the Reds last season -- against Peter Burke, who dived to his right to save. This time I made up my mind just to dink it down the middle and it worked.”
“This is a fantastic day for this club -- it’s back to where it belongs.
It’s my first major medal with Linfield -- one that I’ll cherish. I’ve said it before, but if I’d left Linfield without claiming a major trophy, I
would have classed myself as a failure. Thankfully, that is not now the case.”
Delighted David Healy admitted the Sir Alex Ferguson factor helped him steer Linfield to their first Premiership title success for five years!
The Blues extended their unbeaten run to a staggering 18 matches following their dramatic win over Cliftonville at Solitude yesterday.
A second half Andy Waterworth hat-trick ignited the mother of all parties at Windsor Park last night where 2,000 Linfield fans turned up to acclaim their heroes.
However, the champagne was still very much on ice at half-time as Cliftonville led courtesy of a Daniel Hughes goal. And, with news filtering through that Crusaders, who were only two points adrift of Linfield, were winning 4-0, the tension as cranked up even further.
But Healy’s half-time worlds of wisdom worked a treat as Waterworth levelled within 60 seconds. And, when he claimed his great treble within 15 minutes, the party was well under way.
“This is the club I wanted to be at as a manager, so I’m really living the dream today,” declared Healy. “People will think I got the job because of my career with Northern Ireland. They might think differently now. I work hard . . . I’ve great passion for the club
“They’ll maybe think I’m not too bad as a manager now. It’s all about the club. It has given so many people a lot of highs over the years. Obviously there have been a lot of lows in recent years.
“This club is now where it deserves to be -- and that’s at the top.”
A clearly emotional Healy stressed he shed a tear when it was all over -- the title had been claimed against all the odds.
“My wife Emma and my kids will vouch I’m not an emotional person,” he added. “When you are filled with pride . . . that is honest, hard working pride, sometimes without noticing it you just feel yourself welling up.
“It’s when I spotted my kids in the crowd, that’s when it got to me,” he added. “They were brought up in England and it was a big decision to move back to Belfast, ‘daddy’s home town’ as they call it, even though I lived in Killyleagh
“To see the pride and buzz beaming out of them, seeing how happy they were for me, certainly brought a tear to my eye.
“It makes it all worth while . . . I’m taking about the Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays. We don’t always train, but there is always something to be done, but I don’t mind that because I always want to be the best.
“I was always in and around Sir Alex Ferguson when I was growing up. He had hands on everything. That’s why Man United are the club they are today.
“And, the day and hour I leave Linfield, I want the one who takes over to say, ‘you know what, this club is in a really good place’.”
Healy’s mobile phone was red hot at the finish, with many managers, players and friends passing on their congratulations after his team’s success. One of them was Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill.
“It was nice of him,” added Heally. “I appreciate something like that. I remember speaking with Michael when I first stepped into the job -- we we lost the four game in November last year. But he was a great source of inspiration.”
Jamie Mulgrew clutched his sixth Premiership winners’ medal and stated, ‘it probably the sweetest of them all’!
The Linfield captain once again led by example in the white heat of Solitude and he admitted it was a ‘proud moment’ when he mounted the podium to receive the Gibson Cup.
“They are all special,” he said. “It’s been five years since the title was at Windsor, so it was a special moment to bring it back again.
“The times we were winning league after league, you take it for granted in many ways. So missing out on the previous four years was a bit of a wake up call to us all.”
The Blues have reeled in 43 of a possible 45 points, which is a phenomenal achievement. They are now unbeaten in 18 games, going into next week’s Irish Cup final with Coleraine.
“From where we’ve came from, I don’t think anyone thought we were going to be champions,” added Mulgrew. “We we were held to a draw with Portadown back in February, we were then nine points behind.
“A lot of people had written us off, even before a ball was kicked this season. But as the season has gone on and, with good results we had, the mettle and the bottle we showed made us stronger. We became a better team.
“I think we would have been incredibly unlucky not to have won it after taking 43 points from a possible 45.
“Crusaders have been a great side and deserved champions for the last two years and won it at a canter -- they’ve been the best side.
“But for us to come back from the dead to then be champions; I think everyone deserves a massive amount of credit.”
Mulgrew stressed he was thrilled for Healy, adding: “He has had his critics, but he has turned around the club. He’s a winner . . . we are now winners.
“We were not at our best today, but he was constructive in his criticism at half-time and we responded the way good Linfield teams should.”